“The power is out!!” Theresa exclaimed.
It’s hot as hell, and the last days of summer are slipping away. Outside the sun shines brightly and the air weighs heavy as we convene on our recently built deck to discuss the news.
“It’s like Little House on the Prairie,” Theresa cheerfully announces. My daughters have recently taken a liking to the show and find great pleasure in coming up with any similarities between themselves and the resourceful and always affable main character, Laura.
“I’ll get the flashlights” Jessie, my youngest, declares.
“I’ll find candles” Theresa counters.
“Girls … GIRLS … it’s 2 in the afternoon and broad daylight,” I blurt out as they run off and ignore me completely.
Power outages are fun for my kids. Go figure. No worries about the groceries I just unloaded into the refrigerator that are now on the slow road to spoiled. No concerns about the Yankee game on television this evening that my husband will rush home to watch in HD on his overly large screen. And no comprehension of the sleepless night that lays ahead if our air conditioner is not cranked. The power is out, and we are living, so they think, like in the olden days and this is entertainment.
“No power — Are you kidding?” my husband Paul says later that afternoon as he walks into the kitchen. His first tipoff — when the automatic garage door didn’t open. His second: his two daughters standing ready with flashlights and candles in hand … still in broad daylight.
“Can we light them dad?” they ask wide-eyed.
“Go ahead” is his oblivious reply.
Dinner is nice. We sit outside with our unnecessary candles, and enjoy the daylight hours. Our deck was completed nearly three weeks ago, and it is, by far, Paul’s and my favorite place to be. The Nantucket blue cushions are still bright and clean and the teak furniture still tan and new with, perhaps only in my imagination, the lingering smell of freshly chopped wood. We have talked about this deck for 10 years; plotting and planning the layout, costs, furnishings and landscaping we will need and most excitedly, how we will use it. We will have coffee each morning in the rocking chairs, dinner al fresco each summer night under the sturdy table umbrella, wine and cheese sitting in the love seat and sofa with friends on Fridays after a long workweek and parties galore. It is our flashlights and our candles.
Darkness falls and our usual relaxation and entertainment routine is out of reach. Theresa is now listening to her iPod singing songs from Grease over and over. I shudder at the suggestive lyrics she unknowingly sings; however, before long, I find myself humming and then singing along too even without the music playing in my ears. Soon Jessie and Paul join the chorus and we are, like Little House on the Prairie, having a sing along by candlelight on a summer night. O.K., so Laura didn’t have an iPod, but still … such a simple pleasure of a family sing along brings me back to another time. The night ends with us too warm in our beds but hopeful that tomorrow we will return to normal with another sweet family memory.
Eight days pass without power. The food has been tossed many days ago, but a bit too late from the foul-smelling refrigerator. The house feels heavy, sticky and the air smells of miscellaneous scented candles, dogs and the lingering odor of whatever the last take out meal we have consumed. Our deck is mission control, and we have spent many hours out there reading, writing, talking but more recently and increasingly, complaining, whining and yelling.
“When will this hell end,” I whine like a child.
“I hate this — I can’t take it anymore” Theresa cries.
“DO something Mom,” Jessie begs.
We are defeated and far from affable. We are spoiled by the conveniences of our lifestyle and miss our simple pleasures. I miss our television, the refrigerator and our air conditioner for god’s sake! How did Laura do it all those years?
Our power will return on the 9th day. The news van will come to our street to film the event, as we are the last residents in the county to regain our sanity. As the lights illuminate and clocks all begin blinking, we run from the deck into the house, kissing the toaster and gold-fringed lamps while vowing to never again take for granted the modern conveniences we have missed.
There won’t be a sing-along tonight, and the girls haven’t mentioned Laura lately. Paul and I however, will open a bottle of wine and head straight for our beautiful new deck.